Using formative assessment to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest achievers in CLL


By Charlotte O’Reilly




This study aims to highlight the impact formative assessment and planning have on reducing the gap between the highest and lowest achievers in CLL. In this project I have looked at the ways formative assessment is used and took time out of my PPA to observe children and then use these observations to inform my planning.

I chose to look at reducing the gap in CLL, because there are a high number of children with EAL and some children with no English in my class. Also from looking at the CLL results from last year’s data I noticed that there was a gap between the highest and lowest achievers, so I wanted to aim to close the gap for the children in my class.

Context of the school

This School opened in 2013 following the amalgamation of a former infant and junior school. It was awarded National Teaching School status in April 2014 and works with other local schools as part of the Gants Hill Partnership Teaching Alliance. The school is much larger than the average primary school, with three classes in each year group. Pupils from minority ethnic groups make up nearly the whole school roll. The majority of these pupils are from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian heritages. The vast majority of pupils speak English as an additional language


Ethnographic Research:

“Ethnography literally means ‘a portrait of a people’. Ethnography is a written description of a particular culture – the customs, beliefs, and behaviour – based on information collected through fieldwork.” –Marvin Harris and Orna Johnson, 2000.

Ethnography is a qualitative research method where observers observe and interact with a study’s participants In their real life environment. Data can be collected through interviews, questionnaires, observations, etc. It aims to describe the nature of those who are studied e.g. people, places, through writing. Ethnography can be widely used in education. It helps in addressing the educational problems of a particular group. The researcher has to become a part of the particular group in order to conduct ethnographic study where the focus is to get familiar with group’s culture to then sense the underlying problems.

Action research

Action research is a form of collective self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own social or educational practices, as well as their understanding of those practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out… The approach is only action research when it is collaborative, though it is important to realise that action research of the group is achieved through the critically examined action of individual group members. (Kemmis and McTaggart 1988: 5-6


Research that informed this study

This study is about using formative assessment to inform planning and taking time out of my PPA to make observations of the children in my class and use the observations to inform planning. I believe that high quality formative assessment will lead to high quality planning therefore helping to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest achievers, because the assessment will help to create a unique picture of the whole child.

Eaude believes that formative assessment is important to children’s learning. Eaud (2011) states that “formative assessment is a process which seeks to enable children to know what to do next to enhance their learning. (p.145) However formative assessment should be on going and happening all of the time for it to make an impact on children’s learning. Nutbrown (2001) stresses the importance of practitioners viewing assessment as a dynamic rather than a static process. Therefore assessment is most valuable when they effectively support teaching and promoting learning.

Observations of children are vital and provide opportunities for teachers to accurately plan for the children’s needs. This ensures that the children are always central to what is planned. Johanthan Glazzard and Jane Stokoe agree that observations are vital and state that it enables practitioners to gain detailed knowledge and understanding of what children know and can facilitate the identification of next steps”

From looking at the evidence it is clear to see that formative assessment and observations have a vital role to play in improving children’s learning. It is also important that next steps are included so the child is able to build upon their achievements. All the information gathered from observations should be used to inform planning so children’s needs are being met.


An overview of actions

With all the research suggesting that formative assessment and observations are vital to children’s learning I decided to put these steps into practice.

  1. Continuous observations during the school day.
  2. Taking time out during PPA to make detailed observations.
  3. Using observations to inform planning and next steps
  4. Regular assessment of low achievers in CLL
  5. Regular feedback to other practitioners in the class to inform them of children’s needs.



The above graph shows the impact that this project has had on children’s CLL. The children are now using more language during classroom discussions with others in the class. The discussions the children had were noted down during observations made of the children. These children were the focus of detailed observations during my PPA sessions which I used to inform my planning and used it to cater for these children’s needs. From looking at the graph it is clear to see that from doing continuous detailed observations and using them to inform my planning it has helped the children to make good progress in CLL.


  • Continuous observations are vital for a child’s development.
  • Carrying out observations during PPA allows you to make detailed observations of children so you can gather a whole picture of the child therefore enabling you to plan for their needs in detail.
  • Use observations to inform planning and plan for children’s needs and next steps.
  • It is important to make sure that all practitioners contribute to class discussions and you talk to each other about what you have observed.
  • Next year the senior leadership team will insist that this is the model used for planning and assessment within the early years.
  • The senior leaders are also looking at how the implications of this can be sustained and shared across all primary key stages.


  • Is there an area of learning you or something you have noticed in your setting which needs attention and could be the focus of your study?
  • Are you willing to give up some of your PPA time to make detailed observations of children in you class?
  • Do you know how to use your observations to inform your planning and next steps?